This year Canadian author ‘Nathan Burgoine is doing a monthly Flash Fiction Draw. This is my story based on the January draw. A 1,000 word story that has three elements: Fairy tale, prison, and a tattoo machine. The setting I found myself writing is related to the world that forms the basis for the novel I am currently working on. The main character, Alex, has featured in another short story that I have yet to publish. Alex’s story will likely be told through a series of short stories that may, or may not, be tied together into one volume at some point.
Inking to Freedom
By Talia C. Johnson
Alex awoke, finding themself in a room with seven others. All teenage boys. Yup, they thought, I’m still in prison. Fuck. I just want to get out of here.
Sitting up in bed, Alex looked at their surroundings. It was a fairly standard room, four bunk beds, each with two occupants, one upper bunk, one lower bunk. As far as Alex was concerned it was a load of bunk. The room was at capacity but, none had woken yet which was how Alex liked it. They liked to be up, showered, dressed, and out of the room before the others.
There would be no inspection this morning, it was Sunday. They quietly got off their top bunk, grabbed their towel and snuck off to shower. The shower room was, again, typical institutional shared shower. Multiple shower heads sticking out of the walls. Alex hated it, the challenge was getting to them when nobody else was showering.
Alex quickly showered, dried off, shaved and got dressed in the uniform provided. Everything properly in place, including the noose they were required to wear tied in a full Windsor knot. Rushing to the dining hall, they were the first one there. Alex slopped scrambled eggs and home fries on their plate and filled a cup of coffee.
As they ate, Alex thought of the plan for this morning. They weren’t required to be at prayer service until 11 AM. The services were filled with hellfire and brimstone sermons. Sinners were going to Hell for many reasons, but the ones that always hurt Alex the most were about being gay and not being “A Man”. They were supposed to pray away anything that might be considered Gay in themselves.
Right, Alex thought, just pray it all away and I can be a “normal” man following in God’s will for me and The Natural God-Ordained Order™ of the world.
Stifling a snort of derision they kept moving. There was only three and a half hours of relatively free time. If someone did not show up, they were collected by force and subjected to penance and prayer.
Breakfast done Alex moved briskly through empty halls. Arriving at the intended room they paused for breath. Please don’t let this be locked, they thought. They turned the handle and the door opened easily. They slipped inside and closed the door behind themself.
The room Alex entered was not large and contained typical furniture, and a tattoo machine. Alex had learned how the machine worked from one of their lessons. It was to be used for punishment or approved scripture passages. Classmates had all talked about how they could use it to tattoo predictably immature things onto themselves. Alex, however, realized it would be the means for their escape.
Alex had an ability, one that was secret. They could make pictures come to life. They could use pictures to transport themself, as long as it was a picture they had made. Given that writing materials were monitored, and creating art was forbidden, this was the only way Alex could get themself out of there.
Alex had decided on Stanley Park in Vancouver in British Columbia and was now part of the Confederacy of Western States. They, along with Washington, Oregon, and California, had managed to break away and not get sucked in to the theocracy that had taken over the rest of the continent. They had seen a picture of it and knew that was the place.
Examining the machine, they found it ready for the needles and ink to be set up and then used. Alex prepared the machine and got ready to work. Almost as an afterthought they locked the door to the room and moved the filing cabinet to hold the door shut.
Sitting down Alex started to ink. It was awkward tattooing oneself. There was pain from each application of the needle, but they were able to keep still.
Time passed and glancing at the clock, they saw it was almost eleven. Not much time, and still more to do. They didn’t know if they would make it.
Shit, I must keep calm, they thought. I can’t afford to be caught now.
In their concentration Alex did not immediately notice the being that took shape in front of them. When Alex looked up they stifled a shout.
“Who are you, and how did you get in here?” asked Alex.
“I am Morgaine and I’m here to help you escape,” the woman said. “You have the power within you, I am here to make sure you are able to use it. ”
“But… How…” Alex sputtered.
“There is no time, you must keep drawing, you’re almost done!”
Alex looked back at their work and got back to it with intensity. They knew Morgaine was right, there wasn’t much time. After about twenty minutes there was a bang on the door.
“We know you’re in there, open up!” came a loud voice.
Alex remained silent and worked on getting the tattoo completed. The door rattled with the sound of a key in the lock. Morgaine made a motion with their hand and the lock stopped moving and jammed in the locked position.
“I can only hold this a short time, you must hurry!” Morgaine said.
Alex looked at the tattoo, “only about 3 minutes, I’m almost done.”
“I can hold that long,” came the quick reply, “but faster would be better.”
The last touches seemed to take forever. The pounding on the door continued and there were calls to get an axe to break it down. At last Alex put the needle down.
“Finished, now I can get out of this hell hole!”
As Alex stared intently at the tattoo, willing themself to be transported, Morgaine’s hold on the door broke. As the door crashed open Alex and Morgaine were fading from view. The last Alex saw of the school was the look on the Deacon-Headmaster’s face as he watched the pair escape.
Inking to Freedom © 2018 Talia C. Johnson. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without permission except in the case of brief quotations in critical articles and reviews. For more information please contact Talia C. Johnson. TERFs will not be given permission to reprint etc.